Art and the Internet
Post #1130 • February 26, 2008, 12:22 PM • 84 Comments
[The following started as a response to this post at EW but became too long, too personal, and too off-topic to put up there. - F.]
I tend to think that the impact of the Internet on the lives of artists will be significant but not revolutionary. It provides opportunities for promotion and sales that never existed before, but the glut of people who identify as artists creates a need for filtration, as Oraine points out, and there's no substitute for seeing work in person. There will be exceptions, but I don't think the galleries are generally in much trouble from individual artists selling their own work.
But for writers the whole landscape has shifted, and to the extent that the art world relies upon writers, it's going to have to keep up. The head of PR at a major museum confided to me that most of her friends in journalism are trying to leave the field and move to PR, where the money and the job security are. The ironic result is that there are more and more flacks and fewer and fewer people to flack to. I see this for myself, because I increasingly get requests to mention this or plug that. The weakest segments of the print publishing market are the newspapers and the traditional news weeklies, which used to be where you would go to read criticism of any note. Meanwhile, the art glossies only ever become more superficial and uncritical. You look at the digital cluelessness of the LA Times, for example, or Art in America, and you have to wonder if they're not secretly trying to go out of business. The blogs are a step towards a future that emphasizes individual writers and deemphasizes the banner they publish under, just as musicians can now cut out the studios to a degree that has never been possible. I don't mind saying that all this informs Artblog.net's long-term plan.
I think if anything, art will remain mostly the way it is but it will have an increasingly hard time keeping up with books, music, comics and film in public consciousness. The best part of a book or a song is available in reproduction, but the best part of art can only be gathered in person. How often do you see or hear an author interviewed, or a musician, or a director, for every time the same thing happens to an artist? Culture, in general, is moving towards forms that can be readily shared.
So we're going to get a lot more people working small and on paper because it will be easier to sell over the web. Art at the fasionable end of the market will focus increasingly on spectacle, becuase it's easy to describe spectacle. Spectacle generates a buzz that, to the uninitiated, substitutes for the thrill of seeing art. Spectacle looks good in the mind's eye. Good art will continue to be made in about the same proportion in which it has always been made - in the minority - and it will persist. Art criticism will continue its trend towards increasing resemblance to travel writing, in which the author lingers upon the pleasures, notes the pains with brief scorn, and lumps together all the things in the middle as part of the scenery.
I wouldn't predict all this if we weren't partly there already.